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My 7 year old son told me about an experiment that he did at school.

He put food dye into a container of cold water and watched what happened.

Then he put dye into a container of hot water and was surprised by what he saw.

The dye in the hot water spread throughout the container much quicker than in the cold water.

Hayden learned an important lesson that day.

He learned that when you add heat to something it moves faster.

This simple scientific principle also applies to communication.

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Educator Daphne Koller recently gave a TED talk that contained the following contrasting quotes:

Firstly, from Mark Twain,

College is a place where a professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students’ lecture notes, without passing through the brains of either.

And then this from Plutarch,

The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.

These quotes describe the difference between giving information that no-one cares about and getting your audience excited about what you’re sharing.

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I like to think of myself as a reasonably effective communicator.

I feel comfortable articulating messages to large groups or to individuals and believe that I am clear, concise and personable in my delivery.

However, too often as a leader I have fallen into the trap of thinking that if I have said something once, then that should be enough.

Of course, to my horror, I would soon realise that the message hasn’t been fully understood or perhaps even fully forgotten.

There was a time when I blamed the listener for this gap in understanding.  I would explain to myself that I’m an effective communicator, they’re just lousy listeners.

How naive!

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A bull rider at the 2007 Atlantic Stampede, an...

Image via Wikipedia

Bull riders have eight seconds to stay on their raging bull.

It’s not a lot of time, but I’m sure to the rider it can seem like an eternity.

Eight seconds.

Research says that 50% of web surfers spend eight seconds on each page that they’re looking at before deciding whether or not to read on.

If you have a web-site or blog, that’s all the time you have to grab someone’s attention and encourage them read more.

Eight seconds. Read the rest of this entry »

Morris the dog was walking past a property one day and he was suddenly confronted by a large black dog who barked ferociously through the fence at him.

“What are you doing?’ asked Morris.

“I’m guarding this property.” responded the black dog.

“What are you barking at me for? asked Morris.

“Because you’re a threat.  Everyone has the potential to break in and steal from me, so I’m not taking any risks and am barking at everyone.”

Morris shrugged his shoulders and walked away, thinking about how much energy the black dog was unnecessarily wasting.

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Some people seem to spend a lot of time on the stuff around the edges.

They spend hours on the PowerPoint presentation, making sure that the right font is used and that the background looks perfect.

They spend hours on the cosmetics of their website, carefully placing widgets and choosing the right template.

That’s all fine, but if the content isn’t right, then you’re just wasting time.

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These days we have a plethora of communication options available to us.

You can write a fantastic email that delivers your message instantaneously to dozens of people.

You can connect with hundreds of acquaintances or like-minded people (they can’t all be friends) through Facebook or twitter.

Perhaps you can start a YouTube channel and begin speaking your message to the camera and the masses beyond.

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One of the constant challenges that I’ve found in leadership is getting people to listen to, grasp and deliver on the vision and strategy that you have for the group.

There have been times when I have become frustrated and annoyed that the message just isn’t getting through and I’ve seen numerous leaders build a chasm between themselves and their people because “they” just don’t get it.

The temptation is to become condescending or just to stop talking to your people.  What’s the point, the message isn’t getting through anyway?

Great leaders understand that it’s not the fault of the people if the message isn’t getting through.  They take responsibility and adapt their communication techniques until they find a way to get their message across.

How can you do that?

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